Using Advanced Statistical Analysis in Your Football Betting28th February 2019 / Julian
The beautiful game is constantly evolving, and the amount of behind-the-scenes work that is ongoing to ensure that a club stays a step ahead of their opponents is greater than ever before. With so much money around in football, especially in the UK, it has become a dog-eat-dog industry, with many clubs turning to ‘marginal gains’ as a way of remaining competitive.
As such, the investment in statistical infrastructure has increased exponentially, which enables analysts and stat hounds to dig deeper into the numbers to discover a team’s strengths and weaknesses, and discover undervalued talents that can be identified as new signings. It’s no wonder that stat compilers like Opta and ProZone continue to grow.
Happily, these companies offer punters a fascinating insight into the game too, and offer a deeper level of understanding of teams/players that are over and under-performing. Reams and reams of data is now publicly available, and sifting through this for the morsels of gold can help a bettor’s profit line increase considerably.
So which are the key stats that you should be looking out for?
#1 – Shots on Target Ratio
If you don’t shoot then you can’t score, so the old saying goes. And so it’s true that teams that fire more shots on target – and stop their opponents from doing likewise – will surely pick up plenty of points across the course of a season.
Websites like WhoScored have popped up in recent years that enable members of the public to see how many shots on target for/against a team is recording on average, and this can offer some valuable insight for punters.
Here’s a table that represents what we mean, using data sourced from the English Championship:
The Championship season was only five games old at the time of writing, so of course the data can be heavily skewed by one particularly good/bad performance, but as you can see from the graphic the SOT Ratio is generally reflective of league position.
The Ratio is calculated by dividing the number of shots on target a team has by the number of shots they are conceding; the logic being that over the course of a 46-game season teams with a high ratio are likely to finish in a better league position than one with a low.
That theme is generally playing out at the moment, although a number of outliers can be identified. As you can see, Sheffield Wednesday should have earned more points than they have given their fine SOT Ratio, so when placing your bets make sure you consider the Owls who will surly climb the table if they continue in this vein. The same can be said of Wolves and Norwich (sandwiched between Burton and Ipswich on the graph).
There appears to be teams that are overachieving too. Birmingham City (in-between Wolves and Ipswich) have an SOT rating of just 0.24, so it will be interesting to see if they regress to the mean and start sliding down the table. The numbers suggest that Blackburn (0.24) are likely to climb above Preston (0.17), Rotherham (0.13) and Leeds (0.15) in the league table in weeks to come.
What does is mean for punters? Two things, really: first, we can plot likely finishing positions in the league (although as yet the data set is too small). This is helpful when considering the outright winner/promotion/relegation markets. Secondly, it gives us an insight into what could happen when two teams meet: e.g. in our example we would fancy Sheffield Wednesday against Birmingham, even though their respective league positions suggest otherwise.
Finding undervalued – and thus under-priced – teams is essential for punters looking to generate long-term profit.
#2 – Goal Types
A lot of insight can be gained by studying goal types scored/conceded. It would be churlish to suggest as such, but you would imagine that the teams that score more goals from open play – where the vast majority are netted from – would finish higher in the league than a team that relies on set pieces. This is an assumption of course, but one based on simple theory.
Here is a look at the current Championship stats for reference:
Conclusions? We would expect Huddersfield to maintain their position near the top of the league table, and also anticipate that Norwich and Aston Villa will climb up the rankings soon enough. Why? Because they are capable of scoring from open play.
Look at QPR, who are currently riding high in the Championship table. But how long can that last given that they have relied upon the referee’s whistle to help them put the ball in the net? Without an obvious attacking threat from open play, across the course of a 46-game season they will surely fall away from the promotion reckoning.
The likes of Nottingham Forest and Barnsley are of interest to punters too, simply because they are scoring a large proportion of their goals from set pieces. Do they have a demon free kick taker or two in their teams, or is it the aerial presence of their players that is doing all of the damage? For the first/anytime goalscorer markets, this information can be a goldmine.
#3 – Expected Goals
A third model of statistical analysis for punters is one that identifies how lucky/unlucky a team has been to date, and as such gives us an edge in finding sides that will improve or regress to their mean.
Calculating expected goals is difficult since a lot of the data required isn’t readily available online, and it also requires a sound level of mathematical skill to calculate. Happily, there’s plenty of people out there on social media that are publishing expected goals graphics, so make sure you look around for these before placing your bets.
The logic behind it is simple. Each goal is given a number depending on its likelihood, so research tells us that a penalty taker has a 78% chance of scoring historically, so a penalty becomes 0.78. A shot from more than 40 yards has a 1% chance of going in, so that becomes 0.01, and so on. Penalties and shots from inside the central zone of the 18-yard box are handed a higher weighting than spectacular efforts from outside the area.
The premise is that, long term, teams with a higher expected goal rating will finish higher than those with a lower rating. In a single game this holds no weight as football is so unpredictable, but over the course of six months or more the prevailing wisdom stands firm.
The tip is based on the personal opinion of the author. No success is guaranteed. Please gamble responsibly. 18+
* All mentioned odds were valid at the time of writing. Betting odds are subject to fluctuations. Please check the current odds with the respective bookmaker!
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